I meet regularly with business development professionals who work diligently to get to know our team and the clients we represent. The thought process is logical: meet face-to-face, and build a relationship in hopes to increase your odds of being awarded future work. Although it is common courtesy to reach out to potential clients and express an interest in their projects, it is rare that this approach leads to winning the work in the public sector. Here is why.
- You called too late. There is nothing as flattering as being asked to lunch after a project RFP is issued. By all means call and ask for more information, but, that too might be wasted energy. The public sector is stringent about sharing information outside of the protocol outlined in the RFP.
- Let’s get married. I know few people who met and decided to get married the following week. Meeting once is not a relationship, it’s an introduction. If you have sincere interest in the client and their project, invest in the relationship over time.
- Get out. Ever notice how many RFPs ask that the marketing department not attend the interviews? I’m sure that stings, given you have the relationship with the client. It happens to us, too. Marketing and business development professionals can bring countless leads to the table, but the client is interested in what the trade professional has to offer them—the Architect will be the one designing the facility, not the Marketing Director.
- You got the wrong guy. If you are relying on your relationship with the owner’s representative hired to manage the project, you’ve got the wrong guy. Did you know that we rarely, if ever, vote during the selection process? Our role is to facilitate a fair process.
- How do you define a relationship? A working relationship is an advantage over a personal one. Have any of your team members worked with one of the selection committee members? Can they vouch for you and / or your team members in the selection process? If you have an employee that has worked with a particular client or someone that client values as a reference then position them on your project to increase your chances.
- First name basis. Maybe you have a relationship. Maybe you have done work with two of the four selection committee members. Great news, right? Not always. Many committee members are concerned about being too close and showing favoritism to a team; to counter that they may not score you as high as you think they will. Don’t go in as best friends, go in as professionals.
- Round two. You won the first round of work, be it programming or the small renovation, so you’re a sure bet for the larger project, right? I will not argue that completing the first phase of a project is an advantage, but only if it went very well. It is imperative to give the smaller project the proper attention in order to position yourself favorably for the larger, future project at stake.
I have many colleagues whose policy is to not submit on a project unless they have met with the owner. I find this interesting, so why, then, do others pursue work when they have no relationship with the potential client? The answer is, they believe can solve the owner’s most important issues; they have a unique technology; or, they have a track record that can’t be touched. In other words they have a differentiator; what is yours?
I appreciate your support of encouraging business development and marketing professionals attending the interview. We are often the first person to create the “connection” or the “relationship” with the client.
Thank you, Paul! Great article on relationships. So often, the phrase “it’s all about relationships” is used to cover all aspects of marketing and BD; less often, do you hear about the distinct value a firm brings to the project and the prospect. The relationship is important, but, to win in the final round, it is the firms who can effectively solve the prospect’s challenges, bring unique enhancements to the project or, just as you said, can’t be touched by the competition because of their capabilities, expertise or other differentiators.